LA CANADA – St. Francis head coach Jim Bonds won a CIF Southern Section championship as a player with Hart High School in 1986 when Hart defeated Temple City 40-26 for the Northwestern Division championship. He was also named the Northwestern Division player of the year. To this day, those memories are still fresh in his mind.
“I remember the celebration after the game,” Bonds said. “I remember mostly, the locker room after the game, the hugging, my head coach (Rick Scott). I loved playing for him, he had our team so ready we would have run through a wall for him.”
31 years later, Bonds will lead his St. Francis Golden Knights (12-1) to what could be a historic evening at Friedman Field as they host Rancho Verde High School (11-2) for the Division 3 championship game on Friday at 7 p.m., a game that will be shown delayed on Fox Sports Prime Ticket at 8 p.m.
The Golden Knights have not won a section championship since winning back-to-back titles in 1963 and ’64, defeating Claremont for its last title 53 years ago for the Division 3AAA crown, 14-0.
“I feel good,” commented Bonds. “We’ve had a good week of practice – the kids are focused. I just want to continue playing our best football at the right time. We just want to pick up from where we left off last week.”
While most teams might be intimated with all the distractions that come from playing a game of this importance, this team is different.
“They’ve played in big games,” Bonds said. “If anything about this group, it kinds drives me crazy, they’re gamers.
“They love the bright lights. Maybe it’s this generation that they’ve grown up watching, but they love the moment. I think they’ll be at their best tomorrow night.”
They’ll be facing a Rancho Verde team that is coming off a huge win over top-seed Charter Oak High School, 41-22.
The Mustangs are coached by Jeff Steinberg who had successful stints at Ridgecrest Burroughs, A.B. Miller and Corona Santiago, prior to joining the Mustangs.
“What makes this unique is that we are a pretty young team,” Steinberg said. “They’ve really grown during the season.”
The game will feature two of the top underclass quarterbacks in Southern California.
Rancho Verde’s Brock White, a sophomore, has thrown for 2,734 yards with 35 touchdowns and only six interceptions. According to Steinberg, there is a lot to like about his gunslinger.
“Brock has really grown during the course of the year,” commented Steinberg. “He’s a sophomore quarterback which everyone knows that when you have a sophomore quarterback, there’s a lot that goes with it. The thing that Brock has brought to the table, we always say that a quarterback needs to know his limitations. He knows what he does well, he will manage the game and manage the offense. He knows that he doesn’t have to go out there and do it all by himself.”
St. Francis features junior Darius Perrantes. A transfer from Crespi, Perrantes has been sensational during the playoffs. He has thrown for 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns in his last four games.
Both coaches agree the pace of the game will be key to their team’s success at the end of the night.
“We are different in styles of play,” Steinberg said. “You have two contrasting styles of offense and defense. We are going to have our hands full – that’s how should be going in for a championship.”
“I honestly thing we’re two evenly matched teams, just the way we approach the game,” Bonds said. “You can really tell that those guys are really well coached. They’re going to be ready to play. We’re fortunate that we get to play at Friedman Field at home. We going to have a packed house here pulling for us.”